Knock At The Cabin
2.5 out of 5
M. Night Shyamalan brings us his latest piece of intrigue. I could say "film" but these are less films than puzzles for audiences to figure out. They are not "whodunnits". Rather, they are "what-on-earth-is-going-on-its".
As with all his films, there is usually a single idea, a thing at the end that acts as both a solution and an explanation of what we just watched. "I see dead people" is the classic example from M. Night Shyamalan's first outing, The Sixth Sense (with apologies for the spoiler but in my defence, it was released in 1999).
The film's first half is its best as the story and premise unfold. A couple are enjoying a vacation with their young daughter in the titular cabin set in a beautiful and secluded forest. Four strangers arrive with an unusual request. That's where my exposition of the plot ends, for fear of spoilers.
The film itself is based on a 2018 novel by Paul Tremblay called "The Cabin At The End Of The World". I read it some years ago and others who may have read it will remember its devastating ending. Director, and writer, M. Night Shyamalan sticks to the book well until the ending. He has changed it totally, believing that audiences might not be ready for such an ending, possibly? I beg to differ. Frank Darabont stuck to the heart-rending and devastating ending in his 2007 adaption of Stephen King's "The Mist". The ending of that film still haunts me today. Here Shyamalan makes that decision for us and I'm disappointed. Every story does not need to have a happy ending nor wrapped up in a neat bow.
Elements of the film annoyed me too. There is a lot of exposition spoken by the four people who arrive at the cabin plus Shyamalan reverts to that lazy trope of having a character turn on the TV news so we can learn more about what is going on.
Special mention for Dave Bautista who I had pigeon-holed as a muscle-bound action hero. To date, his roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have not called for subtly or an emotional range. However, her, he displays acting chops I didn't know he had. He manages to produce a gentle, caring character who is tormented by his choices and consumed by regret. It is a very good performance and elevates the film.
As I said, it's a film of two halves. The first is tense, violent and leaves one trying to figure out what is going on. Are the four "visitors" weirdos or are they right or have they a more sinister agenda? The second half is less even and crumbles towards the end. It's not for everyone but as a curiosity, it's fine.